Growing up Black in America many of us are used to being “the only” Black in class, in the school, in the community, in the whatever. It’s a distinct position that my grandmother would code as being “the only fly in the buttermilk”. It makes a difference because if that’s your experience wherever you go you look for others like yourself. I was the only Black girl in my sixth grade class after my parents moved from DC to the suburbs. I am sensitive to being “the only”.
Well on my third day in Manila what stood out most was not my workshop on peace building in the family which went very well, not the concern the participants from various countries had for the plight of Black people who have such miserably low marriage rates but the fact that during a visit to the Mall of Asia (yes, I said mall) our group of four Blacks from the US were “the only” Blacks in this huge mall. Let me be clear, not the only Blacks from the US but the only Blacks from the planet, Africa, Caribbean, or wherever. We were just “the only”.
There were tens of thousands of shoppers in this mall. I mean tens of thousands and we were the only Blacks. It didn’t really occur to me until we were about to leave and were sitting near the entrance waiting for the rest of our group to return. I started paying attention to the people coming and going. I started looking for myself in the crowd.
Well the Mall of Asia is fabulous. It has 5,000 parking spaces, goo gobs of stores, a movie theatre including an IMAX theatre, bowling alley, Olympic size ice-skating rink, an open air Music Hall and a Science Discovery Center. It is the second largest mall in the Phillipines and the fourth largest mall in the word. 200,000 shoppers come there daily. The exchange rate was better than the hotel, the bargains were great and with so many people shopping the recession seems to have skipped Manila.
It seems Black people had skipped the mall too and as I recollect my travels through the city I don’t remember seeing any Blacks in the city either. My group seemed to be “the only” everywhere we went.
More to come…